Kyle Bergman, who is profiled in the March-April edition of Form magazine, returns to LA for the third time to present the Architecture and Design Film festival, March 13-17. It will be held, as before, at the Los Angeles Theater Center, 514 S. Spring Street, downtown. Twenty-two long and short documentaries will be shown in 12 programs, and you can move from one auditorium to another and see them all. Shorts will be shown in the design showrooms of the Helms Bakery in Culver City on March 9. You can access the full schedule and purchase tickets on line (adfilmfest/site/la2019) or at the door.

I was able to preview some of the features and here are notes on some of my favorites

Mies On Scene

Mies on Scene: Barcelona in Two Acts. An in-depth exploration of a Modernist icon: the pavilion that Mies created for the 1929 World’s Fair in Barcelona. The original stood for only a few months, but the black and white images inspired architects for decades until the pavilion was reconstructed in 1984. Insightful comments by the participants in this recreation counterpoint the seductive images. I’ll be moderating a panel discussion with Susan Macdonald of the Getty Conservation Institute, Mies expert Edward Lifson, and architect Frank Escher, following the 3.30pm screening on Saturday March 16th.

Renzo Piano: The Architect of Light. Veteran Spanish director Carlos Saura explores the Centro Botín in Santander, Spain, from conception to completion. Piano is the star, a serene presence discoursing on light and perception, and the thrill of the construction process. This arts center, sponsored by a public-spirited banker and raised over a newly landscaped waterfront that was formerly a private car park, triumphed over the usual chorus of philistines and nay-sayers.

Design Canada

Design Canada. Everyone is touched by graphic design, from advertising to wayfinding, postage stamps and subway maps. In Canada, a brilliant generation of designers went even further, helping to forge a spirit of unity and pride in a vast, bilingual country. They designed a new flag, logos for the national railroad and broadcasting service, and hockey jerseys for the national team, along with graphics for Expo 67 and the Montreal Olympics. It’s a dazzling display of creativity.

Leaning Out. A moving tribute to Leslie Robertson, the principal structural engineer of the Twin Towers, who collaborated with Minoru Yamasaki to lighten and strengthen his design. Robertson’s innovations saved countless lives on 9/11, by slowing and isolating the collapse of the towers. This was the most celebrated project in a lifetime of problem-solving, which culminated in I.M.Pei’s Miho Museum in the mountains of Japan, and the tallest tower in Korea. The film makes highly complex issues intelligible but, above all, it’s a compelling human story.

Do More With Less. Idealistic young architects in Ecuador, one of the smallest countries in South America, collaborate with their students and community leaders to build housing and schools for as little as $10 square foot. They draw on local skills and materials, teaching and learning from craftspeople, while creating models that locals can replicate. Scavenged wood, bamboo and straw are combined with adobe and rocks to create practical and inspiring shelter.

That Far Corner.

That Far Corner: Frank Lloyd Wright in California. Wright was inspired by the Mayan architecture he saw in World’s Fairs to create a new American architecture in southern California, and the five patterned concrete block houses he completed in the early 1920s are among the most distinctive of LA’s historic landmarks. Christopher Hawthorne, who recently moved from the LA Times to City Hall, explores their genesis and how they express the architect’s despair following the fiery loss of his home and mistress in Taliesin.

Frank Gehry: Building Justice. The other Frank challenges architecture students at SCI-Arc and Yale to reimagine what a prison might could be, following testimony from former women inmates in the US and a field trip to a model penitentiary in Norway. It highlights the urgent need for reform at every level of the US justice system and is a call to action. There too many talking heads and insufficient architecture to evaluate the student proposals, so one has to take their inventions on trust.

Michael Webb

Author: Michael Webb

Michael Webb Hon. AIA/LA has authored more than twenty books on architecture and design, most recently Moving Around: A Lifetime of Wandering, Architects’ Houses, and Building Community: New Apartment Architecture, while contributing essays to many more. He is also a regular contributor to leading journals in the United States and Europe. Growing up in London, he was an editor at The Times and Country Life, before moving to the US, where he directed film programs for the AFI and curated a Smithsonian exhibition on Hollywood.

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